Like most iconic American institutions, the National Football League can be divisive.
Some believe the NFL is a morally bankrupt corporate entity that continually invents new and upsetting ways to sell its soul. Meanwhile, some believe it’s really fun to watch guys chase a leather ball around a big field for three hours. Clearly, there are strong points on both sides.
I’m woefully unqualified to discuss the moral and cultural underpinnings of professional football. Instead, I’d like to focus on something I’m only slightly unqualified to discuss — fantasy football.
For the uninitiated, fantasy football entails selecting an abridged roster of NFL players and earning points every week based on those athletes’ production. If your roster generates more points than the roster of your opponent that week, you earn a victory.
It’s a great hobby. I highly recommend you never do it.
Don’t get me wrong — fantasy football can bring you closer to your friends while making you a more informed viewer of the game. It can also make you a paranoid amateur statistician whose mental well-being hinges on the performance of a 23-year-old running back who neither knows nor cares that you exist.
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That sounds dramatic, but anyone who has played fantasy football knows the euphoric highs and devastating lows it can bring.
When your team does well, you’re a genius. You laugh in the faces of the odds makers. You would pity the uncultured fools in your fantasy league if you weren’t too busy drinking their tears.
When your team loses because your kicker strained his hip flexor during warm-ups, you are nothing. You are a pauper, a court jester debasing themself for the amusement of the enlightened aristocracy. If you ever knew love, you have certainly forgotten what it feels like by now.
That kind of emotional roller coaster is unsustainable. Watching the games is already stressful enough, especially if your fantasy league has implemented stupidly high stakes.
Sure, setting a hilarious punishment for the loser sounds fun in September, but what happens in January when you’re in last place?
Everyone puts in $10. The winner gets $100, and the loser gets an appendectomy.
Oh, you already got your appendix removed? Guess you should’ve thought about that when you started the Minnesota Vikings’ defense week nine.
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That’s a bit extreme, but it’s not like public humiliation or bodily harm are ever fully off the table with fantasy leagues, especially those comprised of college dudes whose brains haven’t quite mastered object permanence, let alone empathy.
Maybe your fantasy league consists of upstanding members of society. Maybe you drafted the perfect team, with a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a stifling defense. You’re going to have a blast, right?
Wrong. When you’re at the top of your league, you wear a target on your back. Everyone wants your crown, and they won’t hesitate to take your head along with it.
One week, you’re basking in the glory of a perfect Sunday. The next, you’re anxiously pacing back and forth, glancing looking over your shoulder for would-be saboteurs like the mad dictator of a crumbling empire.
You might think I sound foolish or spiteful. You might even suspect I drafted an all-time dumpster fire of a fantasy team this year, realized I was completely screwed after week one, then decided to project my failures onto others. Let me assure you, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
On a totally unrelated note, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone willing to trade an elite quarterback for two injured tight ends and a backup kicker, would you?